Air Fresheners: Friend or Foe?

Anyone wants to stay in a fresh-smelling room, a fact known to the billion-dollar manufacturers of air fresheners. But recent studies conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) showed that majority of the air fresheners contain harmful elements which pose a threat to our health. In fact, 86% of the air fresheners contain phthalates in them, the same substance added to plastic to increase their flexibility.

So what problems can result from being exposed to phthalates? One major risk is the weakening of the reproductive system in men, particularly having a very low sperm count. Unborn babies whose parents are exposed to the chemical may also develop physical deformities. The same can also trigger asthma attacks, while others may develop allergies. Worst of all, each of us are vulnerable to these possibilities. It is a real reality that harmful chemicals in air fresheners must be known by consumers.

Everyday we unknowingly expose ourselves to products containing phthalates such as perfumes and plastic children’s toys. That fact alone already poses a threat to us, so the use of air fresheners only worsens the situation. There is no way that you can avoid the exposure but you can choose to minimize it.

Since phthalates is a necessary substance in the things that we use in our daily activities, NDRC advises to stop the use of air fresheners – the same thought shared by Anne Steinemann, a Civil and Environmental Engineer. She testifies that based on their research, 20% of those who were exposed to air fresheners containing volatile organic compounds experienced headaches and shortness of breath. Moreover, a big percentage of the already asthmatic or chemical-sensitive subjects developed more adverse effects.

You may suggest the use of organic-based air fresheners. However, since phthalates is a chemical necessary to spread the scents, it’s really impossible to keep away from them. Even natural oil essences carry out VOCs and phthalates, so air fresheners containing them is still not an option. Besides, essential oils may also contain cancer-causing chemicals such as formaldehyde.

So what’s the difference between natural air fresheners and the manufactured ones? The answer is quite obvious, the latter is synthetic. In fact, majority of the air fresheners are made from synthetic substances. The trouble is, our body is not accustomed nor has the power to fight off synthetic chemicals which makes us the perfect target for various illnesses.

You may have seen air freshener advertisements that claim to purify the air but this is not true, as what Steinemann further enunciated. The single, most effective way of cleansing the air is through proper ventilation. However, this seems to be a luxury for some especially for those who are living in windowless homes or offices. In this case, your next best choice is the use of all-natural options such as fresh flowers or citrus fruits such as orange.


  • Carol Parr

    We’re glad you’re here. We’re Carol and Tony, founders of one of the longest running Healthy Home Blogs in the world, Mitey Fresh Australia. We’ve been on this journey for the last 25 years and are passionate about helping families sift through health hazards and triggers like allergens, mould, water damage, chemicals and EMFs, to get clarity about what’s toxic and what’s not so they can create a healthy and happy home for their family they love. Each month, people visit this blog seeking focus on the health and wellbeing of their loved ones, sustainable and effective practice tips and guides, to help create and manage healthier indoor spaces, improve the built environment that is pleasing to the senses and support healthy living and nature, every day. Starting this blog was to help change people’s lives, one family at a time, and we can’t wait to share how its allowed us to stand next to you and show you how interpreting these synergies between buildings and the environment they are built in will impact upon the health and well-being of those who occupy them. Find out more about Healthy Homes and what this blog can do for you!

2 thoughts on “Air Fresheners: Friend or Foe?”

  1. thank you for that, i agree totally and always tell my family about the dangers, of course they just think I am a “nut” so I will forward this on to friends and family,

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